by Gary Ireland- Director Soccerbook Consulting
For more information and to learn more about how foreign players/students can play college in the USA contact Gary Ireland firstname.lastname@example.org
Finding the right college fit depends on your playing ability, academic prowess and ambitions, as well as financial and geographic requirements such as location, proximity to home and school size among many other factors. Being offered a scholarship; being recruited to play on the squad; having your application tagged; being a walk-on- are all very different scenarios. Some players want to start on a team Freshman year while others are willing to earn playing time. Some players want or need to get scholarship money while others can afford college. Some players seek the academic rigors of NESCAC and Ivy League programs while others may seek a less demanding environment. It means many things to many people.
First and foremost the player (and family) must understand and accept the reality of the players' ability and aspirations versus potential and if these are aligned. The apple doesnt fall very far from the tree. For example, players whose parents attended Ivy's or Nescac or top D1 Academic schools, tend to follow in parents footsteps. These players tend not to pursue National team or top D1 programs. In reality, very very few youth players getting flown around the country by their coaches and parents will end up playing for a top D1 program or National teams.
The 'top' 20 soccer programs in the country are scouting/recruiting 6-8 players per year- approx 120-160 players, and 90% of these players have been signed to a college program by age of 15/end of Sophomore year. In reality, if a player has not been scouted or offered money, anywhere, by a top D1 program by age 16, its unlikely to happen at all. This all said, there are hundreds of D1 soccer programs and many of these are not better than D2 or D3/Nescac-type programs so there is still a possibility of finding scholarship money from a D1 program, so the term 'playing D1 soccer' means many things as does 'playing college soccer'. Its not unlike professional soccer. Professional in one country and in another it may mean part time in another.
Some factors out of the players control are:
1) Programs/coaches needs. i.e a player who has ability and tools to compete day 1 or a player who they can and want to develop.
2) Competition- who else is the player competing with to earn a spot.
3) Time: Top D1's recruit and commit much sooner and give $ away much earlier. Top academic programs scout no different to any program but they commit much later as they have to wait on ACT; SAT scores.
Recruiting starts when a player puts on a competitive uniform whether you agree with it or not. Regardless of whether you know what schools you are interested in, or feel ready or not to be scouted, coaches are always watching you play and formulating opinions of players and feedback from club coaches and dialogue is frequent. Top D1 schools recruit (i.e allocate scholarship $) much earlier (FR or even younger into middle school) while on the other end of the spectrum Nescac & Ivy schools track players years before being able to commit to their recruits which sometimes drags into a players' Senior year of high school.
So how do you get scouted? Contact the coach directly to let them know of your interest in their program. It's possible for a coach see you by chance during a game, but a much more likely scenario is if they hear from you or your coach and learning beforehand where/when you are playing, and stopping by to watch you specifically because contact has been made. The same applies to ID camps. Don't be discouraged if you don't hear back from them as they cannot always respond due to NCAA rules.
Players should focus on enjoying playing and continue to work at their game and seek to make a positive impression at every training and games. There is a school out there for everyone. If you let your feet do the talking then the rest will likely follow. No amount of video, letters, calls, pressure on the coaches to assist in recruiting will help if you cant play the game well. The interaction between club coached and coaching directors and college coaches is constant so if you continue to improve and show committment then you will likely get recognized for this. Be realistic about your goals and select schools that are within your reach. Aside from the very best way to get recruited which is to let your ability and performance speak for themselves, there are various ways of helping you get recognized.
1: WORD OF MOUTH FROM TRUSTED AND REPUTABLE SOURCES:
Personal recommendation from current and past professional soccer coaches & professional players and current & former college coaches. Like any industry and profession word of mouth recommendations from highly regarded individuals is worth a great deal. If these people like you as a player and person and they think you are a good fit for a team or club an endorsement from these people can alter a players career. The individuals with integrity will not exaggerate a players ability. They will do their homework before putting their name to a player as they want to protect their reputation. Before they recommend a player they need to do their diligence also. The qualities they typically look for in a player is good technique, competitive spirit and soccer passion, tactical understanding, good decision making and ability to read the game. They look at a players first touch and creativity and physical prowess- pace, mobility, power. They may see you play in a game as a striker and recommend you as a midfielder or a defender as the youth game differs from the college and professional game and even in the college game, a player who was a top striker in youth soccer may end up playing as a defender in college soccer due to the increase in physical and tactical requirements. Their eye for the game and insight is something that is subjective and they can see the intangibles that a person who has not played/coached the game at the highest levels cannot see so data and film are not things they tend to use when assessing a players competencies. If and when you impress them on the field, then you also need to impress them with your personal character. Are you dedicated, hard working, a good teammate, confident but not arrogant, can you bring out the best in other players? Are you punctual and reliable with respectable social habits? In short, are you someone who is going to reflect well on whomever is going to put their name to you? Is your coach going to write a glowing personal character reference?
After discussing your potential as a player with these trusted individuals, college coaches typically follow up with a personal visit to games or practices. They will tend to want to see a player train and play and know the background and habits of a player: What will this player be like when they join a college program? how do they practice? do they train well? are they interested in the game? will they excel? do they have the desire and dedication and aptitude for self improvement (remember there many NCAA restrictions that prevent college coaches from 'forcing' their players to even practice on their own at college so they are seeking motivated players!). Getting into a program and staying in and earning playing time are different things. Players need to convince coaches they are worth having for 4 years. This includes written evaluations & video- supplement (be very careful with video as coaches know every editing trick. Videos only work if they are very well done. Coaches do want to see a player play in an entire game so they may want to see an entire game on video.
2: ATTEND COLLEGE ID CAMPS:
This is an excellent way for coaches to see players for extended period of time; these camps allow colleges to be creative with NCAA recruiting rules re: recruiting. Its a great way for college coaches to get to know the players' personality: coachability, attitude (towards teammates, coaches etc) and training habits; Players to see the campus and get a feel for the environs and meet the staff. We don't recommend attending an ID camp unless the players club coach or club head coaches communicate with the college coach to see if its the right fit. You don't want to waste your time attending if you arent actually being recruited. It can be costly and time consuming if you aren't targeting the right program. Make sure the program is compatible with your grades (GPA/SAT/ACT) and your playing abilities.
3: LEAGUE PLAY WITH CLUB TEAM:
(very important to see players play in their element- coaches like to see how players train). We have had many players offered scholarships and roster spots from being scouted at training games as well as league games and tournament play. However, coaches wont discriminate when they see a player play.
These are hit and miss. you may play well, or not; coaches may not see your best performances; you may even not be on the field when they are watching or the coach may not even be at the game- a good place to get 'seen' but you will still need personal references and you will likely be told to attend ID camps and they will follow up more scouting. You don't have to win games or come first place to get recognized by a coach. They don't care who wins or loses the games as many times college coaches recruit players who play well on losing teams too and finals are generally considered to be the 'worst' games in tournament format. showcase tournaments with no Champions/points are the best events as they give coaches an opportunity to see the qualities of a player based on 3 games in 3 days as opposed to 5 games where players are fatigued and the soccer is typically of a poor level when you get to the final game. Tournaments are very useful if your club coach or Coaching Directors are working with you to make sure the colleges you want to attend are going to see you play. Tournaments should be used for players development especially in the summer months but can be useful for recruiting purposes if done correctly.
5: ID platforms: Training Centers; ODP, PDP, id2 platforms:
Even these players will need to get a strong recommendation in order to play in college; While these are important platforms, they provide limited exposure and were more important before video & technology apps have made scouting easier. Being invited to ODP or PDP or id2 or National Training Center wont guarantee you get college or national team recogniztion but it wont hurt your chances either. The reality is that all of these platforms pipeline into national team selection and many players who have not participated in these programs end up playing in college.
NATIONAL TEAM SELECTION: Because there are so few of these players in any given year and because these players area already heavily scouted by colleges very early on in a players career, this avenue is only available to very few players. One only has to look at the amount of national team players being invited into national training camps after the age of 15 who have not yet been previously selected or invited and you will find that the number is extremely low.
* College coaches are not concerned if your team wins or loses or the ranking of your club or team or what league a player is in.
* College coaches don't recruit entire teams, they recruit players so while it may be easier to scout players on winning teams, coaches do recognize talent regardless of which side of the scoreline you are on.
* It doesn't matter what position you play- they may see other qualities in you. You dont lock yourself into a position and coaches with an eye for talent will recognize certain attributes such as: touch; movement on the ball; vision; movement off the ball; ability to read the game; bravery; physicality and other differentiating qualities.
* Occasionally a college coach will see a talent an immediately offer a player a spot. If a college coach likes you at a tournament and sees potential in you, its likely they will need to see you at one of their ID camps and have you visit the campus.
* Many coaches want to see how a players trains and plays with their team, so they will try and get to a practice and game.
* Ivy and NESCAC type schools will need to see ACT, SAT scores before committing to you. As with any school there are academic requirements, however, the high performing academic schools need to keep their options open until a player is academically qualified.
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